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Ten Years after the Second Iraq War Began: Was it Just? What have we Learned?

By Deacon Keith A Fournier
March 21st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Before the intervention on March 19, 2003, I disturbed some colleagues and friends by publicly opposing intervention in what came to be called Iraq II. I had supported the first intervention in Iraq, after the Kuwaitis requested our assistance against an unjust aggressor named Saddam Hussein.  However, in light of the teaching of the Catholic Church, and based upon my own efforts to inform my conscience by it, I opposed the Second Iraq War. I even contributed a chapter to a book dedicated to such opposition.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 brought the joyous celebration of the installation of Pope Francis in Rome. Like many Christians who write on daily news events from a perspective of faith, I was delighted to have such a joyous occasion to write about. 

However, March 19, 2013 brought another historic event to mind. An event which must be seriously reconsidered - and from which we must learn the lessons which desperately need to be learned. It marked the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the US intervention in Iraq referred to as the Second Iraq War. Fifty six people were killed in a series of deadly bombings in Baghdad and beyond. The violence and the consequences of the intervention ten years ago continue. 

Reports filled the media commemorating the ten year Anniversary of the Second Iraqi conflict. One of them, entitled People turned on Christians': Persecuted Iraqi minority reflects on life after Saddam  touched upon one of the underreported stories of the Iraq War, the dramatic increase in the persecution of Christians in Iraq since the US intervention ten years ago. I, along with others at Catholic Online have written numerous articles seeking to call attention to our persecuted Christian brethren in Iraq. Their plight has grown worse since the intervention on March 19, 2003. 

Before the intervention on March 19, 2003, I disturbed some colleagues and friends by publicly opposing intervention in what came to be called Iraq II. I had supported the first intervention in Iraq, after the Kuwaitis requested our assistance against an unjust aggressor named Saddam Hussein.  However, in light of the teaching of the Catholic Church, and based upon my own efforts to inform my conscience by it, I opposed the Second Iraq War. I even contributed a chapter to a book dedicated to such opposition.

I concluded back then that the decision to engage in what was called a pre-emptive war with Iraq failed to meet the conditions, commonly referred to as the Just War theory, summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2309):

"the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated."

"The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good."

I also came to the conclusion that the very notion of a pre-emptive war was antithetical to this analysis. The determination as to whether any war can be justified is rooted in the broader understanding of self defense. The entry of the United States into Iraq on March 19, 2003 was not an act of self defense. Neither was it a legitimate response to the horror unleashed against our Nation on September 11, 2001.

In spite of what some sincere Catholics - whom I respected - sought to say back then, the leaders of the Catholic Church were overwhelming in their unified opposition to beginning the Second Iraq war. They were unanimous in their conviction that no attack was imminent, and, as a result, war was far from justifiable.

Deep reservations were raised by numerous Bishops' Councils; then Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State; Cardinal Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; and most ardently by Blessed John Paul II, the Holy Father back then, who clearly stated that not only was war a human failure but that specific war was unjustified.

After the intervention, as time progressed, my opposition became moot. The War had become such a debacle and the brave men and women of our heroic Armed Forces deserved our unflagging support. Those who initially supported the second Iraq war and those who opposed it, agreed that we could not abandon the Iraqi people in their great hour of need. The Holy See expressed its continuing concern for the people of Iraq after the intervention.

However, looking back, ten years later, we need to seriously examine the Second Iraq War in order to learn its lessons. On the day of the tenth anniversary Brown University released the results of its Cost of War Project. As we pause and consider the anniversary, we need to be aware of some of these startling statistics:

$2.2 trillion - The cost of the Iraq War, including cost related to caring for veterans. Initial estimates were $50-60 billion.

$500 billion - The cost of caring for Iraq War veterans through 2053.

134,000 - The number of Iraqi civilians who died of direct war violence. That number is about 70 percent of total war deaths.

4,488 - The number of U.S. service members killed in Iraq.

3,400 - The number of U.S. contractors killed in Iraq.

231 - The number of journalists killed in Iraq. 62 humanitarian aid workers have also died.

$60 billion - The amount spent, so far, on reconstruction in Iraq.

2.8 million - People displaced from their homes by Iraq War.

13,500 - Contractors, most serving as security personnel, still in Iraq

2.5 million - The number of U.S. service people serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Most have served more than one tour.

106,000 - The number of U.S. service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan

750,000 - Disability claims approved by the Veterans Administration related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

38 - The number per 100,000 of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans using VA health care that have committed suicide, compared with 11.5 deaths per 100,000 for the general public.

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